While Debbie was soaking up the stillness and serenity of Churchhaven, Annie & Co headed off to see and savour Franschhoek. Ever on the lookout for outstanding places to stay and experiences to enjoy, Annie spent an immersive few days cherry-picking the very best that Franschhoek has to offer.
Only one hour from Cape Town, Franschhoek is known as the Food and Wine Capital of South Africa. If a gastronomic experience is what you’re after, you’ve come to the right place. Here, both locals and visitors lean into long, lazy lunches, either amongst the vineyards, or within Franschhoek Village where street-café culture is the order of the day.
Animals and Art
Annie took the route to Franschhoek via Stellenbosch and stopped in at Dylan Lewis’ Sculpture Garden. World-renown artist Dylan Lewis anchored his artistic reputation through his expression of animals – namely Big Cats – but of late has embraced the human form as a vehicle through which to explore our “inner wilderness”. When visiting the sculpture garden, we absolutely recommend booking a tour guide as this will make your visit meaningful and memorable. As your guide takes you through the meandering, beautiful gardens, you’ll get insight into the artists personal journey, the meaning behind his work, and the conceptualization behind his creations.
Fare with Flair
A walk through a sculptured wilderness builds up an appetite, so Annie and Co sought satiety at The Werf in Boschendal. Described as fantastic, soil-to-fork food, they were treated to a generous, tasty feast. The shop and deli at Boschendal offer the freshest-of-fresh farm produce, and the Boschendal night market that’s held every Friday night in Summertime is a must-do experience.
With iconic restaurants like Protégé, La Petite Colombe, Reubens, and the Chefs Warehouse at Maison Estate all within a small radius, foodies will be spoilt for choice. Along with the ever-increasing trend to provide the freshest of farm fare, these restaurants offer world class dining, created by world-class chefs.
From casual croissants and cappuccinos at Haute Cabriere, to fancy-food and fine wine, Franschhoek offers diverse dining that suit all manner of tastes and appetites.
Sleep in style
Franschhoek has a rich history that dates back to 1688, when French Huguenots escaped persecution and settled in what is now the Franschhoek Valley. The town is a blend of traditional Cape Dutch architecture, French farmhouse-style, and modern-classical design.
In line with the look-and-feel of the area, most accommodation in Franschhoek includes elements that are a nod to the French legacy of the region. The hotels, lodges and villas that Annie visited all offer superior natural surroundings and are excellent value for money. Each venue has its own unique appeal, lush gardens, and often beautiful views to top it all.
First stop was Angala, a cosy country retreat overlooking the Franschhoek vineyards. The lodge overlooks a fresh-water swimming pool that resembles a natural pond, and the surroundings are calming and relaxing.
Then came Tugela in heart of Franschhoek village, a 3-bedroom country villa that combines a French-Provence aesthetic with a contemporary twist. Periwinkle shutters and the vanilla exterior walls of the house reveal fresh, farmhouse-chic interiors and well-tended gardens with tall Cypress trees that flank the long swimming pool.
Set amidst vineyards against the dramatic backdrop of the mountain, Auberge Clermont was the next port of call. Clermont is an elegant country sanctuary. Botanical elements are reflected in the interiors that draw inspiration from the leafy surroundings and beautiful flora that lie beyond the grand veranda.
La Clé des Montagnes – a 5-star boutique hotel spread over two working farms – offers a range of different sleeping configurations. Their four villas are fantastic for small groups, while the rooms within the main lodge are perfect for an intimate weekend away. A convenient walk to the village, La Clé cleverly combines contemporary and eclectic interiors which open onto shaded verandas that invite copious tea drinking and sipping on sundowners.
Akademie Street is sophisticated and stately, and incorporates country warmth and natural elements. The hosts have thought of everything – and more – which is why it’s earned its accolades of being awarded the World’s Most Romantic Hotel and the World’s Best Boutique Hotel.
It would be remiss if we didn’t mention our other firm favourites in Franschhoek:
La Cotte Cottages are nestled between the trees and vines of La Cotte Estate. The luxury cottages have various configurations, are conveniently self-catering, and all bare the hallmark of being simple-but-sophisticated. Beautifully styled, with exquisite gardens and sweeping views, La Cotte is a superior destination that’s in walking distance to Franschhoek village. You can choose between the classical lines and fresh, contemporary palette of the Orchard Cottages, or the simple Rouge-Bleu-Blanc elegance of the Forest Cottages.
Take a hike, Get on your bike
Although the Franschhoek region is the training grounds for many professional cyclists, the town and surrounding area offer world-class road-bike and mountain bike routes which cater to different abilities and fitness levels. Annie cycled the area, following a route that took the group around the village to the Berg River Dam. Cycling on a back road that traced its way back into town, they were able to get an overview of the area. The 15km ride included a climb, but many of the routes you can choose from are gentler and more meandering.
Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve has 10 hiking trails, ranging from one-hour walks to day hikes The routes vary from 2km to 13km. All the hiking routes offer breath-taking views and pristine wilderness.
Franschhoek is a destination of sensory delight. From tasty lunches that please the palate, to beautiful interiors and pristine views that please the eye, every visitor is sure to find something that strikes their fancy.